Irish in Chicago | St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago | Mr. Dooley
Chicago Tribune March 17, 1907
ONE-FIFTH of the people in Chicago are Irish, and proud of it. Nobody on the face of the earth is as proud of his nationality as the Irishman, and in the light of his achievements few prides are as pardonable as the one that fills the breast of every loyal son of the Ould Sod. Where would Chicago be today if the Paddies and Mickies had not come over to dig its ditches? Picture a police force without its Pats and Mikes, if you can. Who sits in the city’s council and makes the city’s laws but the Hon. Patricks and the Hon. Michaels? Hats off to the Irishman, who governs every country but his own; who pushes wheelbarrow and the pen to the everlasting honor of both, and who almost, but not quite, is as proud of his nationality as Chicago is to him.
No history of Chicago is complete without a record of the city’s Irish citizens. From the day of the last treaty of peace between the colonial French and English—negotiations which, by the way, are known to have been conducted by an Irishman on each side—the sons and daughters of Erin have done wonders toward the building of the west and to no small share of his work is due the present greatness of Chicago. The Irish helped to drive the Indians out of Chicago, and the city is thankful today that this people, with sturdy strength and perseverance, have been here ever since.
Past Master in Political Arts.
The Irishman in Chicago, like the Irishman in every other part of the world, presents a study in political contrasts. Primarily, the Irishman is a politician and his deftness to the arts and crafts of political manipulation always has been past the understanding of his fellow workers in the new republic. The trait of the Gaelic mind is based on the same cause that makes the Jew, deprived for centuries of the opportunity to earn money, the first to grasp commercial advantages when no restrictions are placed on his effort. In his own country the Irishman is denied many political benefits and that fact makes him the first to exercise them in a land that recognizes no civil distinctions.
The first politician in Chicago was the son of an Irish father and a Pottawatomie Indian mother. His name was “Billy” Caldwell, and it is recorded of “Billy” that his chief pride in life was in having an Irishman for a father. “Billy” was a justice of the peace for several years prior to 1826, and when Mark Beaubien built the first tavern that ever was erected within the present limits of Chicago it is said that he could think of a no greater man that “billy” to name it after. Caldwell rendered splendid service in the adjustment of difficulties that sprang up between the settlers and the Indians, and in recognition of this work the department of Indian affairs at Washington built him a fine house on the present corner of State street and Chicago avenue and gave him an annual pension of $1,000 until his death.
Chicago’s First Politician Was Irish.
While “Billy” Caldwell gloried in the fact that his father was an Irishman, he bore the Indian nickname “Sauganash,” meaning Englishman. This was the name that Beaubien gave to his tavern, and while Caldwell recognized the honor paid him by his fellow townsman, he never ceased to resent his nickname in the most approved Irish fashion. It stuck to him, though as long as he lived. “Billy” was Chicago’s first but hardly her last Irish politician, and while many of his fellow countrymen failed to live up to his high standard of political ideals it cannot be said that the average Irishman is without his love of good government and high citizenship.
The political activity of the Irish in Chicago has been marked ever since they have been a factor in the city’s population and at times this aggressiveness has been of sufficient proportions to make the city hall their nominal and actual headquarters. While at times Irish officeholders have been subject to just criticism, they more often have been found at the head of movements for reform and good government. The Irishman stands out as a credit to the city in the making of which he has played such a prominent part. His essentially tender nature and the warmth of his affections are things that in the past sometimes have made the son of Erin a prey to designing leaders in the game of politics or a follower in a cause unworthy of his loyal devotion.
City’s Irish No Longer Colonized.
There are no longer any colony limits for the Irish in Chicago. Thirty years ago most of these people had their homes in the old Bridgeport settlement out near the stockyards, or off to the southwest of the city along the Illinois and Michigan canal. Recently the whole Stockyards district has been changed in its racial complexion by the influx of immigrants from the countries of southern Europe, but in spite of this, the Irish still are to be found there in great numbers.
In former times the new arrivals from Ireland sought and usually found employment in the live stock industries at the yards almost as soon as they reached the city. Twenty-five years ago there were a dozen Irish laborers to one of every other nationality in the packing houses, but as the size of the plants increased there was an imperative demand for more workers, and as the American pilgrimage from the congested parts of southern Europe began about that time it was not until many years until the keener competition from this source drove the Irish laborers into other fields of activity. At present there are hundreds of Irishmen st work in the stockyards, but their numbers are rapidly decreasing.
Another Irish settlement that still remains much of its old identity is the one along Archer avenue, or the old “Archey” road, as it formerly was known. This territory for years was inhabited by Irish and many of them, and their descendants still live there. When the building operations of the Illinois and Michigan canal were in full force most of the laborers were Irish, and from the money they earned at that time many of the heads of families bought modest homes. These are still retained by the children of the canal workmen and are used either by them as dwelling places or rented to the later arrivals from the old country.
The Archer avenue settlement was centered around the old Holy Family church, and many of those who have prospered sufficiently to live in a more congenial part of the city, if they cared to do so, still make their home near the old church.
While politics always has been the Irishman’s natural field of activity, he has prospered greatly in nearly every line of commercial and professional pursuit. Many of the packing houses in which the members of his race once worked as laborers now are owned by Irishmen, and the foremen and superintendents in nearly all the houses still are of that persuasion. Along Halsted street, in the vicinity of the stockyards, where he once was a tenant, the Irishman now is a property owner and a tax payer and of most of the smaller business establishments in the vicinity of his old settlements the proprietor is of Irish birth or descent. Hundreds of men well up toward the top in the business world of Chicago trace their lineage to the Emerald Isle.
Church of the Holy Family
On Twelfth Street, between Blue Island avenue and May street
Chicago Illustrated, March 1866
Louis Kurz, Artist
First Volunteers in Civil War.
In the military history of their adopted country the Irish have borne an important part and the members of the race in Chicago have been no less conspicuous on the field of strife than were their fellow patriots in other parts of the country. During the first year if the city’s incorporation an Irish military company was formed for the protection of life and property. This organization was known as the Montgomery guards and this name was changed later to that of the Robert Emmet guards. When the civil war broke out the name was changed again, this time to the Shields guards, and this body had the honor later of being the first volunteer military organization in the United States to offer its services to the government. This offer was made on Jan. 14, 1861, and in a letter to the president the little company made known its willingness to serve the country in whatever capacity the president might see fit to direct.
A few months later some of the leading Irishmen of the city, headed by Col. (afterwards Gen.) Mulligan and a few others, started out to organize and equip an Irish regiment for service in the war of the rebellion. Among those who assisted Gen. Mulligan in this effort were Ald. Comiskey and M. C. McDonald; Capt. M. Gleason, C. E. Moore, J. C. Phillips, Daniel Quirk, F. McMurray, Peter Casey, Daniel McElroy, John Tully, Philip Conley, and T. J. Kinsella. These men issued a call for a mass meeting, the announced purpose of which was to organize a regiment, and pursuant to the call there was a monster gathering at Bryan hall. The meeting was addressed by Mulligan, who told of the deeds of bravery for which Irishmen were famous and urged the formation of a regiment which would make the name of Ireland famous in the new world just as it was in the old.
Irish Regiment as Independent Fighters.
As a result of this meeting nearly 400 names were added to the list of those who already had volunteered to go to the front without delay and every arrangement was made to do so when word came from Washington that the Illinois quota had been secured. Mulligan was greatly disappointed at this, but was determined not to give up. After consulting with friends he went personally to Washington to see the president and after a long conference secured the latter’s consent to enlist the Irish regiment as an independent body of fighters.
Hastening back to Chicago, the distinguished Irishman set to work to drill his men and in a few months this regiment, afterwards known as the Twenty-third Illinois Volunteer infantry, went away to the front with more than 900 men. Of this number, a mere handful returned to Chicago four years later after the regiment had distinguished itself in a score of battles.
In the semi-military field the Irishman has no equal, as every one knows who is at all familiar with his record as a policeman. The Chicago police force, like the police force in every other American city, is composed almost entirely of Irishmen. Fitted by nature with a strong physique and an even temper, the Irish patrolman makes an ideal officer, especially in a city like this, where crossings must be watched and where criminals of a desperate nature often make their headquarters.
No criticism that year was ever made of the Chicago police department has been directed against the rank and file. Time and again the brave men on whom the city depends for protection have been called upon to lay down their lives in the performance of their duties and seldom has it been recorded that a man was found wanting when the great sacrifice was called for. In the many labor difficulties with which the city has had to grapple and during the stormy days when anarchy tried to rule, the Irish police officer stood ready to lose his life in the preservation of lives and property of his fellow citizens.
No proper estimate could be made of the influence of the Irish race on the development of Chicago. In every line of endeavor they have left their mark of constructive effort and still a mighty factor in the growth of the city. In the educational field no people have done so much as the sons and daughters of Ireland.
Essentially, the Irishman is a brain worker; it is to the credit of the race that so many of the teachers, ministers, lawyers, and other professional men in Chicago today are of Irish birth or descent. Of the 6,000 school teachers in Chicago it be given on the authority of members of the board of education that approximately half are Irish. One-third of the lawyers in Chicago can trace their lineage back to Ireland, and of the children in the public schools at least one-third are of Irish patronage. This percentage of school children would be still higher were it not for the fact that more than 75,000 Irish children receive their early education in the parochial schools.
Eager to Secure Education for Children.
Traditionally committed to the religion of Rome, the Irish parent prefer to educate his children at his own expense, if by so doing he can combine their religious with their educational training, rather than send them to public schools. The value of the parochial in Chicago, which are maintained almost exclusively by the Irish property owners must contribute to the support of the public school system, from which he often expects no benefits in return, it can be seen how eager the race is to secure the advantages of education. The Irish contributions to the ranks of the learned in Chicago are all out of proportion to the numbers of these people, and goes to show a condition of mind as healthy as the vigorous physical strength with which the Irish are endowed.
In connections with the educational advancement of the Irish it may be well to speak of the recent movement to revive the old Gaelic language, literature, and sports, which lately has been given much attention by the Irish in Chicago. Less than two years ago the Gaelic league was formed with less fifteen members, and from this start the organization has a membership approximately of 500 and is growing rapidly.
Mr. Dillon, who perhaps has done more than any other Irishman in the city to further the teachings of the league, firmly is convinced that the Irish, as a people, are destined to become the future, as they have been in the past, one of the greatest of nations and the Gaelic league, in his estimation, is the force that ultimately will lift his native country to this desired elevation.
Seven Irish Mayors in Chicago.2
Seven of the mayors of Chicago have been Irish. All but four of the superintendents of police have been of that race. With the exception of a few years the fire department has been ruled by an Irishman and if a list of all the aldermen that ever sat in the city council could be had it would be seen a few of them were of any other nationality. Put a dozen laborers, fresh from as many different European countries at work in Chicago and who will tell eleven of them how to cast their vote? Will Oscar, or Adolph, or Giuseppi, or Alphonse, or Don, or Isaac, or Ching? Not much. In a willing single file the whole bunch will be marched to the polls by the son of the Emerald Isle, and there they will be given their first lesson in the art if “voting right.”
Within the last few years the Irishmen of Chicago, having firmly established themselves in the new country, are turning their attention to the mother country and in the movement toward political freedom at home the Irish Americans of Chicago have wielded and are wielding no small influence. Every year an increasing number of Irishmen from this city pay a visit to the old folks at home, and much material support for the mother country is taken back each year by the travelers.
Comfort and Support for Mother Country.
Since the Irish land laws were revised with a view to giving the Irish an opportunity to purchase the soil on which they were tenants so many years there has been a revival of the hope for a free country in the breasts of American Irish. In Chicago it is estimated that nearly half a million dollars annually is given toward the support of the loved ones in the motherland, and as the prosperity of the Irish here increases there will be an ever growing fund for the redemption of Ireland.
The leaders among the Irish people in Chicago are convinced that the movement to restore Ireland to its former greatness must have a tremendous impetus from outside sources. Realizing as they do that immigration of the volume that formerly came to this country from Ireland irrevocably would drain the strength of the mother country, the Irish in this city to a certain extent have used their influence to keep the young men of Ireland at home. With the flood of newcomers from the south of Europe every year the local leaders among the Irish have seen the former opportunities of the immigrant from his own country dwindling from a certainty to a doubtful chance, and in the letters that go home every year there is an increasing tendency to advise against coming to America.
New Era Dawning for Ireland.
With the organization of the Gaelic league and the readjustment of political problems in Ireland, the thinking Chicago Irishmen sees the dawn of a new era, for his native country and for that reason he believes there shorty will be a great need of young Irishmen and women to act as a nucleus for the redevelopment he believes is at hand. While the Irish, unlike their brother immigrants from other parts of Europe, do not come here to replenish their fortunes with a view of returning to the old country to live in comparable wealth, it is their belief that a young Irish man at home has or shortly will have an opportunity equal to the one he would have in Chicago.
Conditions have changed greatly since the present leaders of the Irish in Chicago left their native country to try their fortunes in the new world, and these changes have not been to the advantage of the newcomer from Europe.
The strength of the Irish in Chicago is reflected in the development of their fraternal organizations. Of these the greatest, of course, is the Ancient Order of Hibernians. This society is one of the strongest of its kind in the country and has approximately 10,000 active members. Recently the order contracted for a magnificent new building, which soon is to be erected at Ogden and Leavitt streets. The new home of the order, when completed, will be one of the finest in the country and will add greatly to the prestige which the Hibernians already enjoy. The A. O. H. is divided into forty-one divisions, with as many local headquarters, and the field of the organization’s activities extends to every part of the city.
Societies Keep Irish United.
In many parts of the city the social life of the Irish citizens centers around the Hibernian order, and the number of picnics and balls that are given each year by the various divisions reaches into the hundreds. Every summer there is a Hibernian picnic, at which all the subdivisions meet for a trip across the lake or an outing in one of the neighboring summer resorts. These affairs have a powerful effect toward keeping the Irish of the city united, regardless of their geographical distribution or differences of political belief.
Next to the A. O. H. the strongest Irish organization in Chicago is the Clan-na-Gael guards. This is a semi-military society, social and educational in its aims, and has in the neighborhood of 1,000 members. The guards have a band of their own and in the annual St. Patrick’s day parades they cut no small figure.
All of the Irish organizations in Chicago are united under the general order of United Irish societies, which, taken together, make a strong force for the regulation of their policies. Within recent years there has sprung up in Chicago a difference of opinion concerning the attitude of the Irish toward the English government.
Questions of Peace and War.
In Chicago there are the parliamentarians, headed by John F. Finerty and those who believe the wrongs of Ireland should be righted by physical force, of whom the leader is J. T. Keating. Finerty and his followers are convinced that Ireland could not successfully compete with England on a war footing, and prefer to seek redress for the political restrictions of the mother country by a stronger representation in parliament and other powerful means. Keating, on the other hand, thinks war is the ultimate remedy for the situation, and, with those who believe with him, is ready to shoulder arms.
While the average Irishman feels strongly on the questions of national policy at home, his beliefs are not sufficiently radical to the cause of any local disturbance beyond an honest difference of opinion. In Chicago the Irish are united in a strong central organization and are doing all they can quietly to help the mother country out of the political difficulties in which it has been enmeshed in for centuries.
In every field the Irish have done their full share and are continuing today the same work of empire building they helped to begin in the days of colonial hardship and struggle. In this city their influence has passed beyond any statistical estimate, and has become a part of the city itself. They are everywhere, into everything, leaving an indelible influence in every branch of industry and in every line of honorable endeavor.
Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1912
Hundreds of Irish inhabitants of Chicago and out of town visitors will assemble at Gaelic park1 today for the unique Irish “Feis” or festival to be held there under the auspices of the Gaelic league.
Everything on the program will in some way recall the ancient customs and national traditions of Erin, The “Feis” was one of the most famous of the Irish festivals in the middle ages and as near as possible today the characteristics of these events of ancient times will be carried out to the letter.
Not only will music and speeches be made in the native Irish tongue, partly with an idea to aiding the campaign now on to revive it, but the music also will be of the real Irish kind. Irishmen prominent in the Catholic church will be present.
Old men and young will compete in the story telling contests, and one of the conditions is that they must be told in the Irish tongue. Irish singing, and Irish plays will also be prominent features of the festival. Some of the men will wear saffron hued kilts, the color that was outlawed in Ireland by an English king in 1446, and others will wear blue, which is the national color of Ireland. The women will be attired in dainty costumes of the fifteenth century.
Demonstration of Lace Making.
Music will be furnished by war pipers, highland pipers, and union pipers, and of course there will be fiddlers without number. One of the amusements will be the royal game of hurling, which has been played in Ireland from the coming of the Milesians to the present day.
Besides the feis there is a demonstration of Irish lace making and rug making. This is given by the exhibitors sent out from Ireland by the Gaelic league, and was held in the La Salle hotel for a week commencing July 15. The exhibit was in charge of Fionan MacCollum, who is head organizer of the Gaelic league in Ireland. He is a fluent speaker and prolific writer of Irish, and has collected many of the old folksongs and folk stories from the peasantry in the west of Ireland. The women members of the exhibit were Bride MacLoughlin of Dublin, Bridgie O’Quinn of County Sligo, and Mary O’Flannagan, of Sligo.
Former Chief of Police Francis O’Neill is an active worker in behalf of the feis, and is particularly interested in the Irish music section. John A. McGarry, is former president of the feis. The principal address of the day will be delivered by the Rev. Michael O’Flannegan, envoy of the Gaelic league.
The modern feis, as revived by the Gaelic league, possesses many of the attributes of the old time festival. The Ard Fheis (pronounced Aurd Esh) is held annually in Dublin and is attended by delegates from all parts of Europe. The business is conducted solely in the Irish language, and several thousand dollars is distributed in prizes for literary, musical, and dancing contests.
One Way to Win Salvation.
Ireland now believes that the only way to win her salvation is by going back to the language and the customs of her old days. Irish, which was fast dying, is again being revived; the songs, the dances, the music, and the folk tales are all getting careful attention, and it looks as if Ireland in the near future will again be an Irish speaking Ireland.
The success of the Gaelic revival has been rightly attributed to the feis. The feis has been the most popular means of creating an interest in the study of the Irish language, and because of its success in Ireland the Gaelic league decided to introduce it to America, wherever there is a sufficient number of Irishmen to take the matter up. Donal O’Connor, a native of County Kerry, one of the most important Irish speaking counties in Ireland, was selected as the man to organize these interesting events in America, and since his arrival in this country from Ireland a few months ago he has succeeded in establishing six feisecanna in the eastern states.
The first feis of which there is any authentic record was held in Tara, the site of the palace of the ancient kings of Ireland, and was convened by King Eochy, surnamed Ollamh Fodla. Ollamh means a doctor of learning and Fodla is a poetic name for Ireland. Ollamh Fodla was high king of Ireland about 800 B.C. and is considered to have been the greates scholar and statesman produced in the pagan Ireland.
The feis in the old days was more in the nature of a parliament. It was usually convened by the king of Ireland, and in its deliberations occupied several days. Here the laws were promulgated and the famous Tailteann games held. Here Finn MscCumhaill and Cuhubin performed some of their greatest deeds of warlike skill at Tara, before King Laoghaire (now spelled O’Leary), St. Patrick first spoke of his mission in behalf of Christianity.
After the matters of state were were discussed at the feis the king distributed prizes to the story tellers, to the bards, and to the athletes.
The Inter Ocean, August 3, 1913
BY DONAL O’CONNOR
Representative in the United States of the Gaelic League of Ireland.
The greatest Irish event ever organized in this city will be the Gaelic Feis at Comiskey Park today. It isn to be, as far as circumstances will allow, an exact reproduction of the real Irish Feiseanna which are doing so much in Ireland today for the revival of the language, games, customs and traditions of the old land.
These feiseanna, or Gaelic festivals, have been fostered by the Gaelic league as a means of furthering the Celtic renaissance. They aim at reviving not alone the Irish language, but the old time songs, dances, music and traditions of the Irish race.
All over Ireland a most energetic effort of the Gaelic tongue and everything else that remains of our old Irish civilization. The harp and the bagpipes, which had fallen into disuse and so remained until the advent of the Gaelic league, are now heard again at all Gaelic concerts and festivals. Rural life in Ireland is brightened by bands of pipers attired in the old Gaelic costume of “filleadh beag,” or kilt, with mantle, breech and aparan, marching from village to village during the fine summer evenings to the martial airs of “O’Donnell Abu” or “Brian Boru’s March.” The national dances—reel, jig, hornpipe, “Blackbird,” “Three Sea Captains,” “St. Patrick’s Day,” “The Job of Journeywork,” “The Garden of Daisies”—and all the beautiful figure dances are well practiced in village halls, in the schoolrooms, in the parlors of the well-to-do, in the laborer’s cottage and, on fine evenings, at the cross roads in the country districts.
The Gaelic league aims to re-create the historic Irish nation; to rebuild the Ireland of the future with her ancient civilization the foundation, her language the corner stone and her history and traditions the pillars of the structure.
The special features of the Feis will be a Gaelic football3 match and a hurling match; an exhibition drill by the Seventh regiment, kindly detailed by Colonel Moriarty, and the Seventh Regiment band will discourse Irish music all the afternoon.
The Inter Ocean, August 4, 1913
Nearly five thousand persons, mostly Irish, gathered at Comiskey’s White Sox park yesterday afternoon and made the second annual Chicago Feis the biggest thing of its kind ever held in America.
Singers, dancers, pipers, orators, story-tellers, athletes and soldiers vied with one another for honors offered by the committee.
The Feis is a regeneration of the ancient Irish parliament, or “meeting of the people,” and has been revived by the Gaelic League of Ireland to prevent the extinction of the Irish language and customs.
The Feis was under the direction of the Gaelic League of Ireland, assisted by the Gaelic League of Chicago. Donal O’Connor, sent from Ireland, had charge of the festivities. David Ryan Twoney was president of the committee.
Governor Dunne presided at the speech-making, which comprised the first part of the program. Judge John P. McGoorty of the Municipal court, Daniel Sheehan of Ireland, and Michael O’Gallagher spoke. The latter talked in Gaelic.
The Governor congratulated the Irish on the revival of their language and compared the fight of the Irish for individualism to that of the Greeks, who have been fighting for twenty centuries.
“The Irish are bound to come into their own,” he said, “because they are the most patriotic of all races and are not afraid to fight for their convictions.”
After the speaking the people crowded onto the field and surrounded the platforms where the various competitions were held.
Gaelic Tongue Spoken.
In one corner the girls jigged to the tune of a bagpipe and a fiddle. On another platform were held contests in story telling, singing, reciting, and conversation, all in the Gaelic language.
The Shannon Rovers defeated Erin’s Hopes at Gaelic football (5-4), while two more teams played the Irish game of hurling.
Contests in violin and flute playing of Irish airs were features. Piper James Early and Fiddler O’Malley sat on their little stools on the platform and played jig after jig, keeping time with their feet, watching the youngsters skip through their parts.
“It was the best thing of its kind ever held in America,” said Mr. O’Connor at the close. “I most thought I was back in Ireland myself.”
The judges of the dances and native reeds were the Rev. M. J. Keyes of Washington, D.C., and John Curtin of Chicago.
Announcement of the winners of the various contests will be made by the judges in a few days.
Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Chicago Police Captain Francis O’Neil, 1913
William Walsh, Chicago Police Officer
William Walsh was born in 1859, at Oughterard, on the banks of Lough Corrib, County Galway, and, although coming to America with his parents in childhood, he is a fluent speaker and reader of the Irish language, and few are so well versed in the history and lore of his native land.
Self-taught in music, as in most other things, he took up the study of the Highland pipes when but little more than a boy. So zealous was he in his practice that the present writer has seen him lay down his dinner pail on returning home from work and, without waiting to change his begrimed clothing, put on the pipes and play while his mother was preparing supper. We may as well admit, however, that the neighbors were by no means unanimous in their approval of his tireless assiduity.
It would be but natural to suppose that, after listening for months to the mellow music of “Jimmy” O’Brien’s Union pipes, young Walsh would favor the Irish instrument, but he didn’t. Provided with suitable music, he learned to play by note and eventually to write music according to the Scottish scale, but not a little of his inspiration came from his frequent visits to William McLean, Joseph Cant, and some others, all famous performers on the Highland bagpipes.
Liberal, even lavish, with his music, he was the most obliging of men, and his only lapse into professionalism was a season’s engagement with Sells Brothers’ circus in 1881. This of course was long before his connection with the Chicago police force, which commenced in 1891. Timidity or bashfulness being entirely foreign to his nature, he makes the acquaintance of every Scotch piper who comes to town, and it is owing to his energy and promptness in this respect that he induced no less than seven of them, on short notice, to enter the contests at the Gaelic Feis held at Chicago in July, 1912, and by the same token the prize winners happened to be only casual visitors in the city.
On that occasion, by the advice of the present writer, Walsh dismantled one of his tenor drones, thereby converting his set of Highland pipes into an Irish warpipe. This metamorphosed instrument served for all, but Walsh easily won the gold medal, the silver trophy being awarded to Walter Kilday. This triumph he repeated in 1913. The second prize was won by James Adamson.
Officer Walsh attends all Scotch picnics as a conservator of the peace, and although he does not compete in the piping contests, often acting as one of the judges, it would indeed be a queer day that he wouldn’t take a whirl at them for an hour or two; and whether it be on account of the excellence of his execution, or partiality for the Irish tunes which he plays, he is sure to have a large and appreciative audience.
Possibly with a view to finding an additional vent for his versatility, “Willy” learned to play the flute—by note, of course, for he scorns ear players. Dividing honors with the best of them for the gold medal at the Gaelic Feis before mentioned is no slight testimony to his proficiency. He was equally successful at the great Feis in Comiskey Park in 1913, tying for first honors with Charles Doyle. The triumphs above set forth, though notable, do not constitute our hero’s chief claim to fame. In these days of costly living, William Walsh supports on a policeman’s salary a family of fifteen. Thirteen of his fourteen children are living. Oh ! what a boon men like Walsh would be to a decadent nation like France, in which the births barely equal the deaths.
The Irish are one of the most important and influential groups to settle in Chicago. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here is a timeline of some key Chicago Irish events,
1836: The Illinois and Michigan Canal opens, linking Lake Michigan and the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Much of the work was done by Irish laborers.
March 17, 1843: The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Chicago.
1844: Bishop J. Quarter becomes the first bishop of the Chicago diocese.
1846: Old St. Patrick’s parish is founded; the famous church isn’t completed, however, until 1856.
1848: Hardscrabble, near the South Branch of the Chicago River, is renamed Bridgeport.
1857-1860: Holy Family Church, at Roosevelt Road and May Street, is built by Irish immigrants under the leadership of Father Damen.
1863: The first Fenian Brotherhood national convention is held in Chicago. The Fenians is a radical group, promoted Irish liberation from British rule. One branch of the Fenians, which included many Chicago Irish, advocated an invasion of Canada in the mistaken belief that such an invasion would result in an Anglo-American war and, ultimately, lead to Irish independence.
1869: Chicago branch of the Clan na Gael is founded. It was an Irish-American nationalist group dedicated to an independent Ireland and led by Alexander Sullivqn.
Oct. 8, 1871: The Great Chicago Fire begins in a barn behind the cottage of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary at DeKoven and Jefferson Streets.
January 14, 1882: The Citizen, a weekly Irish newspaper, is founded by John F. Finerty.4
1889: Dr. Patrick H. Cronin, a critic of the Clan-ne-Gael, is murdered in his Lakeview cottage by followers of Alexander Sullivan.
October, 1893: Finley Peter Dunne’s “Mr. Dooley” column makes its debut in the Chicago Evening Post.
December, 1893: John P. Hopkins becomes Chicago’s first Irish Catholic mayor, narrowly defeating his Republican rival, George B. Swift.
March 17, 1896: The last St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the Loop until Mayor Dailey brought it back in 1956.
1900: Charles Comiskey, the son of an Irish immigrant, founds the Chicago White Sox.
1910: Francis O’Neill, the retired superintendent of police, publishes his seminal book, Irish Folk Music: A Fascinating Hobby.
July 28, 1912: First Annual Chicago Feis
August 3, 1913: Second Annual Chicago Feis
1926: The Shannon Rovers Pipe Band is formed.
1932: Publication of James T. Farrell’s first novel, Young Lonigan.
1955: Richard J. Daley is elected mayor and stays in office until his death in December 1976.
1956: Chicago’s first modern St. Patrick’s Day parade in Loop. Florence Gallagher is crowned the first queen.
1962: Chicago River is Dyed green for the first time.
1979: The South Side Irish Parade is founded.
1984: Gaelic Park, South Side headquarters of Irish culture, opens.
1985: The Irish-American Heritage Center opens.
Timeline of Old St. Patrick’s Church:
St. Patrick’s Church Presbyterian and Schools
1846: To relieve overcrowding at nearby St. Mary’s Church, St. Patrick’s congregation organized.
1853: Church cornerstone laid at 700 West Adams Street.
1856: Church dedicated.
1871: Survives Chicago Fire, by two blocks.
1885: Twin spires (one Romanesque, one Byzantine) added.
1911: Thomas O’Shaugnessy is commissioned to decorate Old St. Patrick’s Church.
1912: Renovation begins, including work on new stained glass windows designed by Chicago artist Thomas O’Shaughnessy.
1922: Renovation and windows completed.
1950s-1960s: Neighborhood deteriorates; congregation dwindles.
1964: Church designated a historic landmark.
1983: Congregation drops to four members; Rev. John J. Wall takes over as pastor.
1985: The first Old St. Patrick’s “World’s Largest Block Party” draws 5,000 people to Des Plaines Street.
1992: Rebuilding and restoration project begins.
1996: Reconstruction and restoration of most of the church interior and exterior were completed.
2006: Old St. Patrick’s Church conducts a year long observance celebrating 150 years in this historic, sacred space and 160 years as a faith community.
Old St. Patrick’s Church
1 Chicago’s twelve Irish mayors included: Alexander Lloyd (1840-1841), Harvey Doolittle Colvin (1873-1875), John Patrick Hopkins (1893-1895), Edward Fitzsimmons Dunne (1905-1907), Edward J. Kelly (1933-1947), Martin H. Kennelly (1947-1955), Richard J. Daley (1955-1976), Jane M. Byrne (1979-1983), Richard M. Daley (1989-2011).
2 Gaelic Park was at Forty-sixth and California Avenue from around 1908-1931.
3 Gaelic football is very similar to soccer, except players are allowed to use their hands. Teams can score either by drop kicking the ball over the net and between goal posts (1 point), or kicking or punching the ball into the net (3 points).
4 The Citizen (1882-1897), The Chicago Citizen (1897-1919), The Irish News and Chicago Citizen (1919-1922)—”Official Newspaper of the A.O.H. of Illinois”
Leave a Reply